Emotional Stress: The #1 Cause of Emotional Eating and Weight Gain
Dear EFT Community,
Sandy Zeldes, professional chef, Certified EFT Practitioner, certified nutrition consultant and the force behind the website, Eat Like a Goddess, shares an example of how she helps her clients heal their subconscious blocks to weight loss and emotional eating.
By Sandy Zeldes, Certified EFT Practitioner
The focus of my practice is working with women to heal their relationship to food and their bodies. We work to release whatever is causing the need to eat emotionally or binge primarily and release weight and poor body image. I find that for people who struggle with sticking to a plan of action, or staying motivated with their health goals and who also struggle with addictive eating habits, addressing both the current and often hidden past accumulation of stress is absolutely critical in achieving lasting success with health goals.
I was listening to a talk recently by a renowned clinical practitioner speaking about the most common cause of fatigue, weight gain, and mood swings that he sees in his practice. You already know what it is if you read the title of this blog post: Emotional stress.
For addictive habits like binge eating and emotional eating, I would agree that emotional stress is primary as well.
Chronic emotional stress from grief, overwhelm, sadness, fear, anxiety, panic, depression, anger and frustration are often responsible for not only the cascade of stress hormones that get activated under chronic stress which can contribute to weight gain, but also contribute to a need to eat “emotionally” for many.
Unfortunately many people aren't aware of hidden or accumulated stress and even when they are aware of it, they find that it can be difficult to resolve or release it.
Awareness is a critical first step.
Finding a way to release the stress is the next step in order to heal fully and end habits of sabotage with health goals and emotional eating.
Finding the Significant Causes of Stress
Stress is something so many are experiencing on an ever increasing scale, and stress can take many forms. We may be stressed about money, our jobs, relationships or lack of any or all of these things. We may even be eating and exercising in a way that actually increases our stress as well. Then there is the added stress of toxins in our water, air, and food that none of us can escape entirely.
Many of my clients report overwhelming fatigue and unexplained weight gain even though many of them feel that they are eating a relatively healthy diet, exercising and doing everything “right.”
Few realize however that stress in any form, whether known or unknown can cause weight gain.
The most common contributors to stress that may contribute to fatigue, weight gain, mood swings and food cravings are:
- Unresolved emotions such as: anger, fear, worry, anxiety, depression, guilt
- Physical and mental strain
- Excessive exercise
- Sleep deprivation
- Low blood sugar and poor diet
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Food reactions or sensitivities
Here are some of the most common symptoms of severe stress or adrenal exhaustion:
- Inability to lose weight even when exercising and eating well
- Exhaustion not relieved by sleep
- Light headed when standing or sitting up too quickly
- Chronic allergies/sensitivities
- Cravings for salty foods
- Easily startled by noises
- Excessive anxiety or panic
Are you experiencing any of the above? If so, you may have stress induced weight gain.
Some of the most common causes of stress, like sleep deprivation are obvious to know if you are experiencing but what about unresolved emotions or food reactions, or even nutritional deficiencies?
Often too, when we are under stress we do exactly the opposite of what our body needs to recover from it. We get less sleep and eat poorly because we are in a hurry. We start to take less time for ourselves and many women will start to eat less and exercise more as they see the pounds creep up. Though it can seem logical to do this, it's truly not a recipe for success with permanent weight loss.
Under stress we need to be doing almost the opposite of the above. We need to exercise to tolerance, not extremes. We need to eat more and better foods to support our taxed nervous system and stress hormones, not less, and we absolutely must get enough sleep to recover.
When we are experiencing stress from anything from the above list, our body releases an excess of stress hormones. At first, and for many years perhaps we can sometimes sustain a high stress hormone levels and feel ok. They can also make us excessively excitable and anxious and effect our sleep. Some people feel very productive at first but later, with enough time, cortisol will begin to decline if the chronic stress continues.
This is when we are exhausted all of the time and begin to put on weight without even trying while we are doing everything else “right.”
When cortisol is out of balance, either too high or too low we can put on weight rather quickly and have out of control food cravings.
Resolving Emotional Stress
The first step in resolving emotional stress in my experience is knowing where to look so assessing the above can go a long way in healing. The next step however is just as critical and that is releasing the emotional stress and of course making adjustments in diet, exercise, sleep and other lifestyle changes that are needed.
Lifestyle changes in this way are a part of the process. Usually however when we begin by addressing the emotional stress in my experience, all of the other pieces seem to fall into place and become easier to implement. In order to significantly reduce emotional stress, we need to find techniques that work for us, and that we can implement quickly and frequently.
Good stress relief techniques are many and varied from deep breathing, yoga, meditation, using affirmations and gratitude, to talk therapy. However, none of these techniques offer the deeper healing and resolution that EFT-Emotional Freedom Techniques provides in my experience.
When we work effectively with EFT we can uproot rather quickly and permanently in most cases the root causes for the stress. Often we can also make cognitive shifts and reframe negative experiences in the process, giving us a more positive outlook for the future.
How does this work?
I'll give you an example from a client to illustrate this.
I was working with a woman whom I'll call “Sarah” to get un-stuck with weight loss. On the surface, all she knew was that she just wasn't motivated to do anything healthful from excersing to eating better. She knew what to do that worked for her, but couldn't get herself to do it. (This is such a common problem, and always has a root in a subconscious cause I believe.) She had out of control binges and was fatigued frequently.
When we began to look at this issue, we were able through tapping (EFT-Emotional Freedom Techniques) and a process I use, to not only discover but release some major contributing causes for her and afterwards she was not only motivated to start excersing but found herself eating in the way she had wanted to for a long time, but couldn't before, all binges had stopped- even under what used to “stressful” conditions for her and she was happier and more energized than she had been in years.
So what did we do?
We found and released the major causes of stress for her that were actually hidden from her in her subconscious mind. Many people from prominent psychologists and psychiatrists to cell biologists are beginning to talk about the power of the subconscious mind. Many now feel that everything that happens to us is registered in our subconscious.
Now some of the causes are not so hidden from view for us like stress from current situations we experience. But much of what is contributing to eating habits and how we take care of ourselves under stress in my experience have much to do with our earlier experiences that we have often long forgotten or think we have already “worked on.”
Healing the causes of a need to eat emotionally or binge and the often subsequent lack of ability to stick to a healthy plan of action is truly possible if we shine the light in the right place, get support needed and allow ourselves the time to do the deeper healing we need to release both the past and the difficulties we face in the present.